Ever since Wikileaks started publishing secret documents, representatives of government and traditional mass media have criticized it as irresponsible and even dangerous. Here is just one of many examples. Those critiques, however, seem almost quaint when one considers the recent work of Anonymous, a loosely organized group of hackers.
Wikileaks requires people on the inside who voluntarily give up information to the public. Anonymous, in contrast, actively hacks the information it wants and releases it. That’s what they did to Bank of Americaand that’s what they’re hoping to do to Orlando, Florida, among others.
Most recently, however, a sub-group in Anonymous has emerged whose tactics make Wikileaks look downright mainstream in comparison. Lulzsec most recently hit Sony, PBS, and then for some unexplained reason released the names and personal data of thousands of porn site subscribers. The use of personal information is particularly disturbing. They’ve even gone beyond embarrassing random porn addicts and have now released personal data on Arizona law enforcement.
In a press release, a representative for Lulzsec explained, “We are releasing hundreds of private intelligence bulletins, training manuals, personal email correspondence, names, phone numbers, addresses and passwords belonging to Arizona law enforcement. We are targeting AZDPS specifically because we are against SB1070 and the racial profiling anti-immigrant police state that is Arizona.
In general, I sympathize with their goals, but their tactics, especially releasing personal data, go too far. Unfortunately, it’s catching on. Lulzsec has now inspired several copycats.
In some ways, I see this as the inevitable result of hegemonic and ossified mass media conglomerates and increasingly opaque governments. If the media and policy makers were wise, they would see Lulzsec as a wake up call. Maybe it’s time to start cooperating with Wikileaks, since they seem to be the most responsible group that is meeting the needs mass media consumers who are sick of being manipulated and misinformed?